Jesus, in You're in the departure lounge. About to board your flight to University. About to fly off to a whole new world, waving your family off... En route to a whole new world... Some sit impatiently, they want to have already arrived. Others are looking for excuses not to fly. Some have heard about the risks of flying, about terrorism... they're scared. Others are lost somewhere in duty-free and haven't really connected with what is about to happen. Where are you?
My departure lounge experience for University was enough to shock me into becoming a Christian in the Summer of 1997. Waking me up from being a church-attender to believing that Jesus Christ is Lord.
University life has many exciting opportunities... a blank canvas waiting to be painted. Stories are told of unconstrained sin in the student world... but the reality is that sin simply mutates to fit its environment. Our problem is not the student world or leafy Surrey, but the sewer of our sinful hearts...
The student world is ever growing thanks to Tony Blair's Education, education, education policy... what will it be like for you? Unmatched opportunities for living for Jesus and speaking for Jesus. Work, rest and play in the same place. A time and place to speak about Jesus. There are dangers. But sin is rubbish. Where ever you are. Its always a waste of your life. Hebrews takes us on the ride of our lives... above all it shows us a mind-expanding portrait of the glory of Jesus, and a terrifying display of the stupidity and evil of sin. It shows us what it looks like to “live for Jesus and speak for Jesus”...
Two things from Hebrews 12v1-2. Listen to the crowd of martyrs. Look at Jesus the champion.
Listen to the crowds of martyrs, hear their stories of grace (12v1)
The writer imagines Christian life in a stadium. A great cloud of witnesses surrounding... a great crowd of martyrs... witness meaning martyr – not suicide bombers, but people who lay their lives down to speak of Jesus out of love for Him and those they meet. People who have held their lives cheap for Christ's sake. The crowd tell us stories of God's grace in their lives.
The Hebrew Christians (10v34)
Flick back a page to 10v34. As you prepare to go I guess you've boxed up some of your stuff to take with you. A car-load or so on average. You might already have taken out some insurance to account for security risks.
Hear what happened to these Christians. They had their possessions stolen. This was an age before insurance – they weren't going to get them back. This happened because: v34, “they sympathised with those in prison”. They identified themselves with Christians in prison, meeting their needs and so put themselves on the line.
Were they reluctant? v34, they “joyfully accepted the confiscation of their property”. Joyfully. Willingly. Why? V34, “because you knew” what? “you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions”. They lost their worldly goods, but were happy because what they really treasured was something else?
What makes people do this? What could help you look at that car-load of your stuff and say “I could happily lose them”. We need that. Most of the stuff we have is good, but its makes us drown as we try and hold onto it whilst swimming against the tide.
“Stuff” is the middle-class dream and it threatens to suffocate our faith. You know how to boil a frog? You don't drop it in boiling water – it jumps straight out! No, you put it in cold water and slowly heat it, boiling it alive before it knows. The culture wants to slow-cook you to its way of living. What is this lasting possession? The Lord Jesus – our Saviour, Treasure and righteousness.
Another story... Moses (11v24-26)
Moses, the Prince of Egypt. He could have it all. All the money, sex and power he wanted. But he called them “fleeting pleasures” and walked away. How? v26 – “he regard disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead and saw the reward”. How valuable is Jesus? Better than the treasures of Egypt. And those treasures were vast and available to Moses.
And the history of the church is littered with people like this... Let me tell you one more story. Another face in the crowd. This is one from the student world, a man called Howard Guinness.
Howard was there at the start of UCCF: The Christian Unions some 80 years ago. He and his friends were determined to establish Mission Teams in the world's Universities who would live for Jesus and speak for Jesus.
What did they do? They sold their sports kit, used the money to buy Howard a warm coat and a one-way ticket to Canada. And off he went to establish Christian Union's there, in the USA, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa... Establishing Christian Unions as Mission Teams.
Later he wrote a little book called Sacrifice, challenging students.... He asked “where are those who will hold their lives cheap for his sake?” - How do you do that? Only by filling your vision with Jesus Christ.
A recent song has these words:
"As saints of old still line the way, retelling triumphs of His grace, We hear their calls and hunger for the day, when with Christ we stand in glory"You need the support of your church here, at home. You need the support of a church at University. And you need the support of your University Christian Union. Christians cheer us on. As a six week old Christian in Bath my church and CU were vital support.
And remember the tragic tales – the story of Esau. Esau isn't in the stadium, he's remembered by a plaque outside the stadium entrance. A warning to anyone who wants to run the race. Hebrews 12v16. He was a poor fool.... he traded his eternity for a single meal. His god was his stomach and he looked for a quick thrill. Its how sin almost always works – the offer of short-term pleasure instead of trusting in Jesus. He was sorry the morning after but God didn't grant him repentance. Which is hard for us to swallow. He got the values wrong – like imagining a student loan was loose change. His offense was vast.
Many things could entangle us as we seek to – 12v1 – “run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” And all these cheap things must be “thrown off”. If not they will “hinder” and “entangle us”. All these things are like eating Tesco Value food when you could have not just food but M&S food. Of course on a student budget you'll get used to cheap food... but don't let that mark your attitude to Christ.
You're stood in the check-in queue. Luggage in hand. But do you have too much? Are you weighed down, preferring low-level pleasures from sin... the air we breathe says get whatever you want. God says, you can do better than that – don't be so easily satisfied. Look at Jesus.
If you want to fight sin you need to listen to the crowd in your church, and in your Christian Union... and you need to look to Jesus.
A heart and mind filled with the Bible's teaching about Jesus will be able to have the right approach to money, to sex, to power... to throw off cheap-thrills and grasp hold of your eternity.
Look at Jesus the champion (12v2)
The crowd has one voice: 12v2. “Fix your eyes on Jesus”. At University don't take your eyes off of him. As you go to the Students Union bar, the lecture theatre or your tutorials... have Jesus on your mind. Think hard about how a Christian worldview impacts your living there. Make use of the resources of your church and your Christian Unions. Use the bethining.org website that will help you think hard about your life and studies.
Charles Spurgeon spoke on this verse and said:
“Where shall language be found which shall describe his matchless, his unparalleled love towards the children of men. Upon any ordinary subject one may find liberty of speech and fullness of utterance, but this subject lies out of the line of all oratory, and eloquence cannot attain unto it. This is one of the unutterable things — unutterable, because it surpasses thought, and defies the power of words.”Jesus. Look at him.
Who is Jesus? The author & perfecter of your faith.
Jesus is where your faith begins. Its where it ends. And He is everything in between. He has won the race and is your life. He doesn't ask you to perform for him, just to trust in him. Trusting that he has counted you righteous. Perfect in his presence. You can't undo that – His work is done at the cross. You can't be corrupted... though by turning again and again to him you'll need to kill off your sinful heart. So live for Jesus. Live in the SU bar, in the sports teams... Engaged with student life. Think hard about how to do that.
Who is this Jesus? The one who endured the cross.
Everything we do comes back to the Cross of Christ. Mel Gibson's film The Passion showed us the physical suffering of Jesus, but his life was really about hanging under the wrath of God in our place. How did he endure that? He endured it because the “joy set before him”. The joy of those he died for being in the presence of God, perfect forever. Like Jesus be heavenly minded. Don't live for the hope of a graduate job, but to the hope of a life lived for Jesus, and the hope of heaven.
Who is this Jesus? The one sat in the throne-room.
Jesus work is done. “It is finished”. Accomplished. Achieved. Its all done. This is our hope. And he now rules over everything. He rules over all things, all of life, your student life, social life, studies. The academy will say the world is a cosmic accident – but God says it is his ordered creation, its worth studying. The academy will say that words have no meaning, though they'll expect to be understood. God says He has spoken, his word is sharper than a double-edged sword and will equip you for every good work. The world will say God is dead, but God says Jesus is alive and rules over all. There are scare stories of people falling away... but you don't fall from Jesus – people turn away... they prefer sin to Jesus: but there is no good reason to do that. So don't.
You don't need to be ashamed of Jesus at University. Don't waste your life. In 151 nations, and on 300 campuses of this nation students have formed Christian Unions as Mission Teams, living for Jesus and speaking for Jesus as the live and study. Count your life cheap and make these words from Thomas Haweis your prayer:
“If on my face for thy dear name,
shame and reproach shall be,
I’ll hail reproach, and welcome shame,
my Lord, I’ll die for thee.” Amen.